I have seen the enemy and it is not us!

Disclaimer: Sally doesn’t like it if my blog has a negative feeling to it.  ‘Not nice’.  But, of course, there are negative things in the world and we experience them.  Plus I tend to see the world through a glass darkly.  A half-empty glass.  And I gotta call ém as I see ém.  So this blog went in unreviewed and unauthorized by the editor.  This is a dissident’s blog. 

The community is reliant on a government dock.  All coastal communities are.  Government docks are operated by Transport Canada and the ministry is well into a decades long program of divestiture. They don’t want to be in the business of operating docks anymore.  They want to privatize them instead.

“We don’t need no stinkin’ docks, coast guard stations or lighthouses!  Let’s buy fighter jets instead”. (Stephen Harper, PM of Canada.  Born and raised on the prairies.)

There is not much to running a dock – once it has been built, anyway.  Generally speaking the facilities were very well built and have gone for years without much in the way of maintenance.  Every year a barge comes by and they replace a plank or two, lube up the winch and that is pretty much it.  Mind you, if something big does happen, it is a pretty expensive repair requiring crews and heavy machinery.  Those kinds of repair events are pretty rare.  Once in five or ten years.  But, honestly, it is not technically complicated and the materials are pretty basic.  If you can swing big beams and drive the occasional pile, it is a piece of cake.

But therein lies the rub – not everyone can swing giant beams and drive piles.  So, basically, no one wants to run government docks.  There are a few community groups who try but, for the most part, they just collect fees and then throw their hands in the air if an expensive repair is required.  As volunteers on the marina board, they have no real, personal responsibility.

Divestiture just doesn’t work.  People out here need docks more than people in the city need mass transit.  In fact, this government plan is not divestiture so much as dereliction of duty.

Some budding businesspeople have tried to ‘make a go of it’ administering a dock but they fail miserably and are hated by everyone as a result.  All of a sudden some local yokel is upping moorage fees and acting like a tyrant.  People don’t like that. Taking on the job is a quick way to becoming a social pariah.

And, if a major repair is needed, his/her hands go up in the air and he/she, too, does nothing about it.  Can’t afford to.  All the fees went to wages.  People really don’t like that!  Divestiture just doesn’t work.

Most small communities on the coast don’t have enough people (and/or boats) to warrant a wharfinger, a manager, a mini dock-tyrant or even a dock-boy anyway.  The facilities do not have enough moorage space or the number of resident boats necessary to generate any operating capital.  And, let us be frank; no one wants to pay moorage anyway.

That ‘I don’ wanna pay’ reasoning is pretty sound, actually.  There are no roads that lead anywhere.  You have to travel by boat.  And boats gulp fuel that is heavily taxed for roads so, in light of that, the local boat owners expect that a few dollars can go to minimally maintaining a few docks that were likely built over fifty years ago.  Reasonable, I think.  Mind you, I have to admit to a bias.

Mini rant!  It is not like remote communities get much for their tax dollars as it is.  In fact, they get precious little.  If a few bucks goes to a government dock and the library keeps sending books-by-mail, then most rural-types are content to pay their taxes and keep mum.  Take away either and there is likely to be a coastal backlash – not that anyone in government much cares.  But we coasters would be ticked!

Today three women flew in on a chartered flight from Vancouver to report on the facility.  They work for Transport Canada.  The dock is about 100 feet long and ten feet wide.  Just wide enough for the three ladies to walk abreast.  It accommodates the post office operated by Canada Post as well as providing moorage for a rotating flotilla of boats which, on a busy day, might number twenty.  Typically, only about ten or twelve are there at any one time.  One of the boats belongs to the teacher at the school.  Another to the custodian.  Another space, now and then, goes to the postmistress.  One end of the dock is reserved for the mail plane that comes three times a week.  Percentage wise, the government itself uses the dock the most.

Maybe ten people ‘get away’ with free moorage for their 17-or-so foot boat.  But, over time, everyone in the area ties up at the dock at one point or another.  The dock is the hub of the community.  It is the parking lot, the town square and the sea-port for outsiders.  It is essential.  It is part of our life line to the outside world.

The three workers walked around with a clip board and a camera and eventually hiked up the hill and toured the school and chatted.  And, of course, the charter plane waited.

Given their wages, per diem allowance and the plane-charter time, I would estimate that their visit used up the equivalent of two years maintenance budget.  Maybe three.  I have no idea of their backgrounds but, judging from appearances, they did not seem to be engineers, dock contractors, boaters or even past or present residents of a remote community.  I could be wrong.  But I am probably not.

I am certainly not wrong that three women with a single clipboard are not necessary to walk a 100 foot dock.  I am not wrong that they need not have chartered their own plane since the thrice-weekly mail flight also carries passengers and came in when they were there.  I am not wrong in thinking that these three women will not likely make the decision to divest the facility or not.  They just weren’t ‘senior’ enough for that kind of executive decision.  I am also not wrong in observing that their visit came unannounced.  It was fortuitous that some people were there.  I don’t think I am wrong in concluding that, once again, the government has proven to be an ass.

Mind you, if they just disappear and file a report for the filing cabinet, no harm done.  If they do anything, anything at all…..harm will be done.  Whatever it is they do, it will likely be a screw-up and cause no end of grief.  Gawd!  I hope the government does nothing.

Isn’t it sad that, despite my following politics, paying taxes and voting, the best thing the bloody government can do for me and my neighbours is nothing?

2 thoughts on “I have seen the enemy and it is not us!

  1. “And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night. ”

    Left in the in the dark is part of the vicissitudes attending the weird sisters of bureaucracy. I hope the dogs were barking at them. one quasi happy thought dock masters can charge rent and sell stuff ya in the summer gotta admit it has potential.


  2. Actually, Harper was born and raised in Etobicoke outside Toronto (there’s no “coke” in Etobicoke, just “co”). He completed high school there (grade 13 in those days) and enrolled at U of T, however when his parents moved to Alberta, he dropped out and followed. That is why Ontario gets a collective chuckle when he talks about the west as though he grew up on horseback in the foothills.


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